The City National Bank and Pheil Hotel as it originally stood when it was built in the 1920s.

St. Petersburg Preservation Helps Keep St. Pete Special

St. Petersburg, Florida is known as the Sunshine City for its spectacular weather and warm-hearted citizens. This amazing city is also known for its charm of both the folks who live here and the appealing architecture that has lasted for generation after generation. As high-rise condos and new construction is sweeping the entire state, the attractive historic buildings in the area are being saved thanks to St. Petersburg Preservation.

The Princess Martha is located at 410 1st Avenue North, also known as the Mason, was one of ten significant “Boom Hotels” built in the City in the 1920s and one of the City’s best examples of Neoclassical Revival architecture. Photo courtesy of Melissa Meisner
The Princess Martha is located at 410 1st Avenue North, also known as the Mason, was one often significant “Boom Hotels” built in the City in the 1920s and one of the City’s best examples of Neoclassical Revival architecture. Photo courtesy of Melissa Meisner.

“It [St. Petersburg Preservation] is preserving the character that has especially attracted so many people to St. Pete, especially here in downtown.” Executive Director Allison Stribling (7th generation Florida girl) explained as she spoke of her passion for the non-profit in Downtown St. Pete. Founded in 1977, the organization is determined to continue to raise awareness for the amazing history the city holds.

St. Petersburg Preservation also has an award program that honors building owners who have done incredible renovations to historic buildings in Downtown St. Pete. Pictured here is a Law Office on 1st Street that proudly flies their "Preserve The Burg" flag as a token of honor.
St. Petersburg Preservation also has an award program that honors building owners who have done incredible renovations to historic buildings in Downtown St. Pete. Pictured here is a Law Office on 1st Street that proudly flies their “Preserve The Burg” flag as a token of honor.

For example, did you know that ex-mayor of St. Petersburg, Abe Pheil, won the bid to take the first commercial flight from St. Pete to Tampa in 1914? He was awarded the honor with his $400 bid. Delving a tad bit further into this glorious chunk of history, Pheil was also a hotel developer in the 1920s and created the Pheil Hotel in the heart of Downtown St. Pete at 4th Street and Central Avenue. Although the beautiful building has been covered up with metallic mesh since the 1960s, the history still lies underneath. Currently there is a request pending for demolition of this and an adjacent building. St. Petersburg Preservation believes that this is a perfect example of the importance of reusing and redeveloping an existing building rather than losing a key piece of the good ol’ days.

“We are trying to preserve neat buildings,” Peter Belmont, Vice President of St. Petersburg Preservation explained. “When we get the call they don’t look so neat anymore and it’s hard for people to imagine what it could become.” However, take The Vinoy for instance – the stunning hotel from the 20s was scheduled for demolition in the 1980s, because some said it was far too expensive to renovate after the doors shut in 1974. With astounding citizen support partially organized by St. Petersburg Preservation, The Vinoy was saved! (Peter has been with the organization since the beginning and has called St. Pete home since the early 70s).

The Vinoy in Downtown St. Pete is a historic building saved thanks to St. Petersburg Preservation. Photo courtesy of Hotels.com.
The Vinoy in Downtown St. Pete is a historic building saved thanks to St. Petersburg Preservation. Photo courtesy of Hotels.com.

The Courtyard by Marriott in Downtown St. Pete, formerly known as the Pennsylvania Hotel, is also rich in history (Babe Ruth even stayed there!) and a great place to stay if you are in town for a vacation or looking for a place to relax for a stay-cation.

In 1925, The Pennsylvania Hotel, located at 300 4th Street North, was built in Downtown St. Pete.
In 1925, The Pennsylvania Hotel, located at 300 4th Street North, was built in Downtown St. Pete.
Built in 1924 Cordova Inn, located at 253 Second Avenue North, is a three story Neoclassical Revival style building, which is a rare architectural design in Downtown St. Pete. It was constructed during the early stages of St. Petersburg’s boom era. Photo courtesy of expedia.com
Built in 1924 Cordova Inn, located at 253 Second Avenue North, is a three story Neoclassical Revival style building, which is a rare architectural design in Downtown St. Pete. It was constructed during the early stages of St. Petersburg’s boom era. Photo courtesy of expedia.com

Undeniably, the city has alluring character and the locals are proud to call it home, but sometimes it is a bit of a struggle to keep that character when out-of-town developers try to invade. That is exactly where St. Petersburg Preservation comes in. Through advocacy and their education component, they provide people with a greater understanding and appreciation of what the city already has. The organization does this with fun events such as walking tours, which are filled with exciting history lessons and gorgeous views. These tours are held every Saturday October thru April and they are also available for private group tours.

Peter Belmont, VP of St. Petersburg Preservation, gives a walking tour outside of the Open Air Post Office, located at 400 First Avenue North in Downtown St. Pete. Photo courtesy of tripadvisor.com
Peter Belmont, VP of St. Petersburg Preservation, gives a walking tour outside of the Open Air Post Office, located at 400 First Avenue North in Downtown St. Pete. Photo courtesy of tripadvisor.com
Hidden in Downtown St. Pete is charming Lang's Bungalow Court - an adorable row or quaint homes, established in 1915 is now designated a historic landmark thanks to St. Petersburg Preservation.
Hidden in Downtown St. Pete is charming Lang’s Bungalow Court – an adorable row or quaint homes, established in 1915 is now designated a historic landmark thanks to St. Petersburg Preservation.
The progression of ex-mayor Al Lang's house in Downtown St. Pete. Photo courtesy of St. Petersburg Preservation.
The progression of ex-mayor Al Lang’s house in Downtown St. Pete. Photo courtesy of St. Petersburg Preservation.
Built in 1923 Bethel A.M.E. Church, located at 912 Third Avenue North, is the first African-American denomination in St. Petersburg. Photo courtesy of Bethel A.M.E. Church
Built in 1923 Bethel A.M.E. Church, located at 912 Third Avenue North, is the first African-American denomination in St. Petersburg. Photo courtesy of Bethel A.M.E. Church

St. Petersburg Preservation is here to Keep St. Pete Special; so the real question is how can you get involved with the organization to help protect the architectural history of the city? Simply become more active and participate in the programs by attending their events such as the Walking Tours, Porch Parties and Movies in the Park. Become a member, volunteer or by show your support with a donation – anyone can help raise awareness!

 

Downtown St. Pete is constantly evolving and so is DowntownStPete.com. We are happy to continue to share only the BEST PLACES to go, 5 Star EVENTS to attend, and unique PERSONALITIES to meet in DTSP. Create a PROFILE to interact with other members and post a photoonto DOWNTOWN NOW of your favorite historic landmark or favorite building in the area that has an interesting story. We can’t wait to hear from you!

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Downtownstpete.com Content Writer Also known as The Mistress of Magic: Gypsy Allure.